• Petra's secrets still being unearthed centuries after its fall

    2014-06-26

    Though the ancient city of Petra in Jordan is still often referred to as "The Lost City," in truth it has been in the public eye for some time. Since its reintroduction to Western travelers in the early 1800s, Petra has hosted many archaeological excavations and many more Asia travel vacations. The city's ruins, including some structures carved into the immense walls surrounding the city, were even used as a location in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," according to the Jordan Tourism Board. But despite how much it has captured public attention, many of the site's secrets have yet to be discovered.

    Beyond the basics
    Most of what is known about Petra today comes from the large structures that dominate the city's ruins. These include temples and tombs of important local figures, which usually survive in ruins longer than the buildings used by the average person, often giving modern-day onlookers a skewed understanding of the cities of the past. However, steps are being taken to uncover how the ordinary citizens of Petra lived their lives millennia ago.

    According to Popular Archaeology, a team of researchers led by professors from North Carolina State University and East Carolina University began a project in 2012 to investigate the artifacts left behind by Petra's common people. One early discovery uncovered the difference between the way the rulers and the everyday inhabitants of the city were entombed.

    It belongs in a museum
    A far cry from the huge and imposing Treasury, which was actually the tomb of an ancient king, commoners were interred in vertical shafts cut into the North Ridge, part of the cliffs that surround the city. These tombs are numerous and many of them have been raided throughout the many years since Petra's abandonment. Researchers were still able to find some burial sites left undisturbed, from which they gathered specimens such as bones and jewelry. Homes of common people have also yielded some artifacts that may make it possible to determine how they lived long ago.

    Innumerable influences
    Part of what makes it so difficult to determine the everyday lives of Petra's inhabitants is that they were so varied. The city stood for centuries and over the years it was ruled by a succession of founders and invaders, from its original Nabataean builders to conquering Crusaders. According to Lonely Planet, the city's architecture shows influences from Egyptian, Assyrian and Roman sources, among others. The city's largest landmark, the Monastery, got its name from the crosses that mark it as a Byzantine church, though it was carved centuries earlier as a tomb.

    Many of Petra's secrets are likely buried under layers of history, but efforts continue to bring some of the lost city's treasures to light.

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